Posts in Japan
Let's get the story right

I have trampled around in the same weeds recently, so I will keep it short this week. Equities are doing what they’re supposed to, trying to complete a V-shaped recovery from the swoon earlier this month. Last week was a corker, even for the portfolio, which benefitted from solid earnings reports. Bloomberg’s Joe Weisenthal had me one-on-one on Monday, where I duly warned that the S&P 500 remained overvalued relative to other asset classes. Even Gartman couldn’t have done it better. On this occasion, though, I am happy to double down. A V-shaped rebound to a new bull run looks like wishful thinking to me. Equities are the least of macro investors’ problems, though. The puzzle of the day remains the link between rising U.S. yields, a firming cyclical outlook and a falling dollar. In my last post, I asked the question of whether foreign savings would come to aid of a U.S. economy at full employment—with a record low savings rate—about to be jolted by fiscal stimulus. Open macroeconomics suggest that such an economy should open up a large external deficit, and Japan and Europe have the savings to make it happen. Alternatively I suggested that perhaps the rest of the world doesn’t fancy financing excess spending and investment in the U.S.

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A lot of noise, less signal

I promise that I will not do an explainer of the VIX this week. Instead, I will lead with some observations on markets and finish with a war-story from the world of retail investing. The return of equity volatility has engendered two responses. Firstly, it seemed as if investors breathed a sigh of relief on Monday when it became clear that we could peg the swoon to the blow-up of short-vol ETFs and related strategies. It is always scary when markest fall out of bed, and even more if so if we can’t explain why. Blaming excessive risk-taking in short-vol strategies assured that the sell-off, while painful, would be short.  Secondly, every strategist note that I have subsequently read—and comments from policymakers—have echoed this sentiment. A sell-off was long overdue and is perfectly normal. There is nothing to worry about, and underlying economic fundamentals for risk assets remain robust. Many have even welcomed the volatility as a sign of healthy markets. I have no particular reason to disagree, but my spider sense tingles when investors and strategists welcome a 10% puke in equities. I understand that macro traders are excited but real money and long-only? The logical response from markets would seem to be: “Oh, so you think you’re tough?”

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